This has been a hectic few days at the Makela household in Mankato. Soccer reigns for the family: Crissy Makela is in her 21st year as the only girls head coach Mankato West has ever had, and Scarlets senior Jake Makela is the leading boys scorer in the state. On Sunday, Jake was named Minnesota’s Mr. Soccer in Class 1A.
A few days earlier, on a postcard Thursday evening in New Prague, both Scarlets teams won Section 2 championship games to qualify for this week’s state tournament. The girls beat Northfield 2-0 and the boys defeated Worthington 4-3 in overtime, with Jake Makela (pictured) scoring three goals including the game-winner on a penalty kick.
“It’s almost a sense of disbelief,” Crissy said Thursday. “It takes so much to get to the state tournament, to be one of the last eight teams.”
The third-seeded Mankato West girls (17-2) will open the state tourney Tuesday against unseeded North Branch (11-7-2) in Farmington. The top-seeded Scarlets boys (17-2) will face unseeded Bemidji (18-2) at St. Cloud State on Wednesday. The winning teams in the state quarterfinals will advance to the semifinals (along with championship and third-place games) at U.S. Bank Stadium.
Jake’s overtime goal Thursday night was the first time he has won a game with a penalty kick in overtime. That was one of several reasons he was thrilled with the day’s results.
“Just the fact that both our girls and boys programs are going to be in the state tournament, and with my mom being the girls coach, it’s a great time in the Makela household,” he said.
Things changed early Saturday morning, when Crissy’s father passed away in hospice care. Mark Bouljon, 70, died after a long battle with liver cancer.
“We’ve been preparing for this for six months,” Crissy said. “At the same time, he always said not to make a big fuss. We’ve done what we’ve needed to do for the past six weeks to take care of things.” (Crissy is pictured on the far right in the back row.)
The soccer calendar meant the Makela family, along with all state tournament teams and candidates for Class 1A and 2A Mr. and Ms. Soccer, gathered at RiverCentre in St. Paul on Sunday for the state tourney banquet.
“It’s been really exciting and really chaotic,” Crissy said. “There has been a lot of texting and a lot of emailing. It’s been great. It’s really terrific and exciting for the teams and players and parents.”
The Scarlets girls previously went to state in 2009 and 2013. The boys have made five previous trips, the last in 2014. They both advanced to state in 2009.
“It’ll be great, it’ll be a fun time,” Scarlets boys coach Leonard Woelfel said of the dual trip to state.
Both Mankato West teams learned a hard lesson one year ago. Both were top-seeded in the section and were knocked out in the first round. The girls lost to Albert Lea and the boys fell to Mankato East.
“These girls have really been working since then, with that in their minds this whole time; ‘We’ve got to get that back,’ ” Crissy Makela said. “They’ve really put in a lot of time and effort. They started last summer and we’ve spent a lot of time in the weight room. The girls have really put in their time.”
The girls team opened the 2016 season with losses to Wayzata and St. Peter and have not lost since. Their 17-game winning streak includes 11 shutouts; only three teams have scored more than one goal against West in that span.
The West boys lost to Austin and Orono during the regular season and bring an 11-game winning streak to the state tournament. Jake Makela has been an offensive weapon for years, and his 38 goals lead the state this season. A fifth-year varsity veteran, he is only the third player in Minnesota boys history to score 100 career goals.
A big key to Jake’s success is what Woelfel called “his own personal drive.”
“He drives to succeed. He embraces the challenge of a couple guys (defending him). And he’s just got so much speed. If he can get around you with that speed; he knocks it off to the side once or twice and he’s gone.”
After Sunday’s banquet and Jake’s award as the top Class 1A boys soccer player in the state, the Makelas – Crissy and husband Rick, Jake, freshman Tyler and fifth-grader Aubrey -- returned home. The girls team will hold their final practice in preparation for state on Monday and the boys will have two days to prepare for their opening game at state.
It’s surely an odd mix of celebration and exhilaration in regards to soccer and grief at losing a father, father-in-law and grandfather. A memorial service for Mark Bouljon will be held Nov. 4 … one day after the state championship games.
“He wanted us to live our lives,” Crissy said. “And we have tried to do that.”
BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has seen/visited: 122
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry in 2016-17: 3,929
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